herald

Tuesday 25 July 2017

'I am very lucky to be alive', says Naughten after bike crash scare

Denis Naughten
Denis Naughten

Government minister Denis Naughten said he was "lucky to be here at all" following his cycling accident.

In an interview with the Sunday World, the Environment, Communications and Climate Action Minister said his recovery from the accident in January had been slower than he had anticipated.

Mr Naughten was left seriously injured after his bike was in collision with a vehicle while he was out cycling with his wife Mary near Roscommon on January 2.

The 43-year-old father-of-four was rushed to hospital following the crash, where he was treated as an in-patient for a number of days.

The Independent Alliance politician said he could not go into the specifics of the accident, as it was the subject of a garda investigation.

But he stressed the need for all road users to exercise extra vigilance when it came to cyclists.

A total of five cyclists have lost their lives on Irish roads so far this year.

"I had a back injury and my lungs were injured as well," he said.

"My injuries are relatively minor compared to the scale of the accident itself. I've been quite lucky, but progress and the recovery has been far slower than I would have expected.

"I was fully geared up as a cyclist, had my helmet and everything. I would always go out with my helmet, but I am very lucky to be here at all.

"When I'm driving, I'm always conscious of cyclists.

"Wherever I go, before I open the door, I would always look back to see if there's a cyclist coming."

AWARENESS

He said he believed it should be mandatory for cyclists to wear high-visibility clothing, but said motorists also needed to be more aware of the fact that cyclists were on the road and had just as much entitlement to be there as drivers.

While he said wearing a helmet was important, he said he would not make the wearing of them compulsory.

"I think there's need for awareness on both sides, but I wouldn't make helmets compulsory," he said. "We need to make it as convenient as possible for people to use helmets.

"I would never go out without having a helmet on, but I don't carry a helmet with me, so if I'm using a city bike, I don't have one.

"I know there are some designs where you could have fold-up helmets, or there could be a dispenser beside the city bikes.

"What's critically important here is that we encourage people to cycle, that we make space for them on the roads.

"In fairness to Dublin City Council, things have improved dramatically in that area over the past few years."

In his ministerial role, Mr Naughten has just recently approved the use of drones in a bid to identify illegal dumping.

"I believe in relation to enforcement we need to use all the technologies available to us, and drones are part of that," he said.

"That has been a weakness in relation to the whole area of illegal dumping.

"Part of the problem has been in actually obtaining evidence, and I think the use of technology, including the use of drones, can help to do that."

Separately, he also said his department had no plans to increase the TV licence fee.

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